Dating back to as early as 2014, at least 37 violation notices have been issued against a Bellevue cat owner by Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) for her brown tabby cat Miska, who was alleged among other things to have been allowed to freely roam through her Bellevue neighborhood. The government agency and its Manager (and also a resident in Danieli’s neighborhood), Gene Mueller, asserted that Miska had violated a City of Bellevue ordinance passed in 2010 that prohibited domestic cats from roaming beyond their owners’ property. RASKC also accused the family’s cat of trespassing, taunting, and killing other pets in the neighborhood.
In a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Plaintiff Danieli argues that because the City of Bellevue failed to revise its ordinance and properly update its code, the King County Hearing Examiner does not have the legal authority to decide any of Bellevue’s animal enforcement cases — and he has never had such authority since he started hearing Bellevue cases in 2016. Danieli’s motion requests that the Court should now void Miska’s alleged violations during this period.
The Plaintiff’s motion sets out how the government lacked the legal authority to hear animal enforcement cases arising out of Bellevue due to the City’s failure to update its own laws – the Bellevue City Code.
A number of issues remain for trial, which is currently set for early 2021. These issues relate to the Plaintiff’s allegations that a public official used the resources of the county’s animal control agency to capture and incarcerate a cat because the cat lived in his own neighborhood.
Of note: in addition to attorneys representing the City of Bellevue, at least seven King County prosecutors have spent hundreds of hours prosecuting Miska over the last several years. King County alone has reported spending more than $27,000 in taxpayer money on legal fees, not including reimbursing costs to the City of Bellevue and other expenditures made by RASKC to prosecute Miska and her owner.
Milestones & Timeline
- In 2014 RASKC’s Mueller signed an order for Miska to either be euthanized or removed from King County. Although a King County Superior Court judge eventually vacated that order, Mueller’s agency continued to bring actions against Miska and her owner over the next several years.
- In records obtained by attorneys to date, RASKC staff apparently encouraged Danieli’s neighbors to file complaints against the cat as early as 2015 for trespassing on neighboring properties. Years later, Danieli discovered for the first time that Mueller, the animal control Manager, was one of the individuals who personally filed more than one of the complaints against Miska.
- In 2017, RASKC trapped Miska and detained her in King County’s animal control facility for several months. Danieli, Miska’s owner, hired Seattle attorney Jon M. Zimmerman to help free the family cat from custody and possible euthanasia. After more than six months in solitary confinement during which time King County refused to release her, Miska was finally handed over to her owner — but only after Danieli paid thousands of dollars in kenneling fees.
- Miska’s case ultimately ended up before the King County Hearing Examiner. During the course of that case, it was discovered that RASKC and the Hearing Examiner had a significant legal problem. This was because that even despite the fact that RASKC had been bringing animal enforcement actions before the Hearing Examiner since 2017, there was a problem with the Hearing Examiner’s authority.
- Prior to 2017, the King County Board of Appeals was the County’s venue for animal enforcement cases to be heard. But then King County made a number of changes to the King County Code, and the venue was changed to the Hearing Examiner. Because animal enforcement services are provided by contract to places like the City of Bellevue, the agreements between the governments needed to be updated to reflect those changes. The agreements also recognized that contract cities like Bellevue also had to update their local ordinances. Though King County and the City of Bellevue entered into the new agreements, the City of Bellevue never passed an ordinance or updated their code to give authority to the Hearing Examiner. Despite this, the King County Hearing Examiner continued to hear appeals of Bellevue residents for animal enforcement cases.
- The Plaintiff filed her lawsuit in April 2019.